A Career Upended by the Digital Revolution


This story is published in collaboration with Generation.

For more than a decade, Pennie Lim enjoyed a growing career in marketing and advertising. When she had children, she took a few years away from the workforce to focus on family—confident that she would find her footing again when she was ready to return.

As she began her job search, it did not take long for her to realize that she was reentering an industry that had been fundamentally transformed in her absence. “Of course, in the last 5 years, digital just went boom. And my knowledge and my skills did not match the job requirements.”

Unsure how to navigate this new world, Pennie began to apply even for junior-level positions. She sent over a hundred resumes to no avail. “I was very competent in conventional advertising, like print, radio, and television, but you know, most companies have moved their advertising budgets into online communications. I was missing the relevant skills, which is the digital marketing portion.”

She was in the midst of her search when the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic deepened her predicament.

Pennie had a plan

Undeterred, Pennie knew she needed to try something different. “The realization was I really need to upgrade. I need to acquire the skills that are relevant for the jobs that are out there.” She soon came across the SkillsFuture Work-Learn Bootcamp, a collaboration between Generation, SkillsFuture Singapore, and institutes of higher learning in the city state. Generation is a global nonprofit that partners with employers to reskill workers for new, in-demand roles, either at their current workplace or in a different industry or employer all together. SkillsFuture is a work–study program that provides opportunities for Singaporeans to pursue a work–study pathway from the diploma to post-graduate and degree levels.

The first week at the bootcamp was tough, and Pennie wondered how she would fare: “I wasn’t very confident in going into digital because the change was huge.” She was overwhelmed by the amount of new information and an intensive syllabus.

Pennie reflects on how quickly things turned around, though: “The lecturers were actually very encouraging. I would text them and they would respond immediately.” They did not doubt her potential for success, and she realized she should not either. Using Generation’s growth mindset approach, she began to welcome all the new challenges each day brought.

Before graduating, she also took full advantage of the support of industry experts to update her resume and prepare for interviews, crafting a strong case around her unique blend of hard-won experience in advertising and the new skills she had recently acquired.

From digital novice to deep expertise

Pennie was invited to three interviews with Generation employer partners. Three weeks after graduation, she received two job offers and accepted one in the fashion industry, which was particularly appealing to her. She is now marketing manager at fashion brand Yishion Singapore.

Recently, when Pennie needed to hire a digital marketing associate, she hired a Generation graduate, who is part of her growing team today.

Pennie reflects: “Before I embarked on this 2-month course, I knew next to nothing about digital.” In her final interview with her current employer, she happened to see the notes her hiring manager had left behind on the table. Scrawled on the page under “strengths” it read: “Vast knowledge of digital marketing. Excellent grasp of social media. Strong command of online platforms.”

This article was first published by Generation.